Mother Hips tour in support of one of their best albums to date, Pacific Dust
:: The Mother Hips ::
:: The hi-dive :: March 12 ::
By Jonathan Keller
The Mother Hips just won’t quit.
Having been around for the better part of 20 years, The Mother Hips have continued to endure the wave of ups and downs and founding member, vocalist and guitarist Tim Bluhm has been there through it all — their major label signing in the early 1990s by famed producer Rick Rubin to his American Recordings label (they were label mates with The Black Crowes, Johnny Cash and Tom Petty), the eventual drop from the label, a brief hiatus in 2003, and their strong comeback with the best album they have released in nearly a decade, 2009’s Pacific Dust.
While most bands would have viewed getting dropped by a major label as a failure on some level, Bluhm’s positive spirit sees past those trying times. He now seems more than grateful for the entire experience and understands how being on a major allowed them to continue their legacy on their own terms.
“Those years we spent on American did a lot for where we are now,” Bluhm explained. “When we were on American we had tour support. We literally toured 10 months of the year for five straight years. That alone gave us a pretty dedicated fan base that would cost a lot of money to reach now through traditional touring. Granted, we didn’t make any money during those years, but we spent a lot of the label’s money and we still have that fan base to this day.”
In addition to getting their road warrior status, the band has steadily built a reputation as one of the West Coast’s premier indie rock bands. And the argument could easily be made that they have become the grandfathers of the grassroots rock movement. Part classic rock, part alt-country, and part indie spirit with a unique sound, the band revamped their recording approach on their latest release and the result is a hark back to their driving dual-guitar attack that helped build their fan base in the first place.
The approach for Pacific Dust was simple: Get the band in a room, set up some microphones, roll tape, and start jamming. For band members Bluhm, guitarist Greg Loiacono, bassist Paul Hoaglin and drummer John Hofer, it seemed like the right move. “Many of the songs on the record were sort of created out of jamming; remembering stuff from various jams and soundchecks over the years. Seven or so of the songs ended up coming from distinct ideas or riffs that we had collected over time. It was a method we’ve never used before and turned out to be a great way to do it,” Bluhm said.
After hashing out their ideas, The Mother Hips took the demo recordings home to finish off the songs and start piecing the album together. “I spent some time with those demos and finished up some of the songs,” Bluhm said. “I created demos of those songs and these days I usually go down to my studio and track them, even playing all the instruments — just laying down the parts because these days you can. When the band goes into the studio to track the real stuff the guys do their parts because they are so much better at playing their instruments than I am.”
On past albums the majority of the songs brought in for a Mother Hips recording session were completely finished. The new writing strategy for Pacific Dust has definitely paid off, resulting in the band’s most ambitious release in years. It’s a hodgepodge of songs that appeal to a variety of audiences. The songs vary from the hard-driving long-time fan favorite “Third Floor Story,” the radio-friendly “The Lion and the Bull,” the psychedelic title track “Pacific Dust,” and the album’s opener, “White Falcon Fuzz.”
“White Falcon Fuzz” is a song that truly showcases the band’s best elements — dual electric guitars, great melody, rhythmic lyric delivery and an infectious groove. “I think it’s the song where everything came together in a new way,” Bluhm said. “It was a new direction for the band both musically and sonically. It has a feel that I can’t even say is something we were trying to create because it just sort of happened. It was beyond our imagination and that song was a defining moment for us.”
With Pacific Dust’s support tour currently underway, The Mother Hips seem geared to deliver their live show to Colorado’s audience and hope to reach some new fans along the way. “These days we try and do everything with more intent,” Bluhm said. “If we travel all the way to New York for some shows we need to be musically prepared. The music and the setlists have to be just right. There are a lot of bands who pay a lot of attention to every aspect of everything they do. For so many years we were like fuck it, let’s just get up and play and then go party. It’s still a good spirit to have, but you want to excel at what you do. We want to be a little more thoughtful about everything we do now.”
:: The Mother Hips ::
:: The hi-dive :: March 12 ::
:: Ghost Ranch (Steamboat) :: March 13 ::
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